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For a generation that would rather get run over by a SEPTA bus than be forced to go dark on social media, it's no surprise that having any kind of online presence can naturally progress into a content creation hobby. Now, being an influencer is not only a hobby, but an occupation. Though creators seem to take all shapes and forms, student–influencers have thrived in their own corner of the internet for some time. In particular, student–influencers at Penn (Pennfluencers, if you will) have taken over our for–you pages, but what are the implications of curating a robust online presence?
Friend, mentor, and part–time food enthusiast, Jerry Gao (E '23) dove headfirst into the Penn community the first day he set foot on campus. He radiates pure joy while discussing his work as a bioengineering TA, revealing his passion for both teaching and learning. Though most Penn students seem to have a myriad of activities padding their resumes, Jerry leaves a lasting impact on every community he's immersed himself in at Penn. Whether in the bioengineering lab, teaching young kids how to read, or cheffing it up for his hometown friends, Jerry sprinkles love into all of his endeavors.
For the past 365 days, I've kept a photo diary on Instagram, documenting the minutiae of everyday life—the joyful moments and the challenging ones, too. One year has amounted to dozens of sweet, lighthearted photos with friends old and new, too many photos of food captured moments before ravenous consumption, at least half a dozen outfit–of–the–day videos, and the occasional selfie of me grinning and bearing the pain of academic dread.
Imposing cement walls line long stretches of South Philly’s Dudley and Mifflin streets, casting shadows over flocks of students from the neighboring elementary school making their ways home after the end–of–day bell and the occasional car rolling by on the adjacent roads.
What makes us hate a fictional character? Greed? Dishonesty? Immorality?
“Faye! We have a gift for you!” A small gaggle of friends hoists a miniature vase brimming with fresh flowers in the air, excitedly gesturing for the singer on stage to accept it. This was no ordinary concert. It was an unassuming Tuesday on the outskirts of Penn’s campus when Faye Webster, Atlanta–born alternative/indie singer, enraptured an audience of students from her perch on the World Cafe Live stage.
A midnight blue paints the sky and streetlights adorn unassuming buildings, casting a soft glow on those passing by. This painted landscape is tranquil and uncomplicated—it could be any downtown suburban street. But in reality, it’s a dreamscape of Anna Hoppel’s (C ‘23) conception—incredibly real, yet entirely fictitious.
“If you need food, you’re eligible.” Fridges & Family’s famous tagline is a statement so simple, yet unfulfilled for 21% of Philadelphians facing food insecurity today.
Ruddy cheeks and a halo of blonde flyaway hairs—the portrait of Elizabeth Holmes might almost be cherubic were it not for her hauntingly still, icy pupils. A hand raises, thumb quivering, and a deep voice falls out of the woman, swearing to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” This was the scene in a San Francisco courtroom on the morning of July 11, 2017.
I used to think that decisions were made in big leaps. Introductions meant braving the emotional deep end, and goodbye was a raw severing. I now understand decision–making through shades of gray, dictated by our desire to belong—wherever that may be.
A sweltering early–September morning found me weakly trailing a dozen first years along the Schuylkill River. The undertaking: a run to the Philadelphia Art Museum with Penn club swim (though, at my pace, I’m not entirely sure I was even running). While the strides of my tired legs and the sweat on my brow linger in my mind like a fever dream, the camaraderie I found that day continues to follow me down Locust, to the pool, and across state lines to competitions.
The misshapen soles of my olive–green converse whisper the stories of dozens of streets between San Francisco and Philadelphia. My father always says the best way to know a city is to walk its streets.